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Cross Country Travels To Pre-National Championships This Weekend

Oct. 10, 2000

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Irish Sizing Up The Nation’s Best:

With the Pre-National Championships being held in Ames, Iowa, this weekend, the Irish cross-country squads are looking to continue their improvement this season.

Notre Dame Invitational Recap:

Notre Dame’s harriers battled both bone-chilling winds and the nation’s toughest competition during the 45th running of the Notre Dame Invitational.

Both teams ran against several tough top 25 squads, including powerhouse Stanford, with a men’s squad ranked # 2 in the nation, and a # 1 women’s team, at the time of the meet.

The plan, then, was to face the toughest competition Notre Dame could bring to South Bend, and use the meet as a measuring stick for the improvement of both the men’s and women’s team this season.

Both squads found themselves where they expected to be, with a few pleasant surprises thrown in for good measure.

For the Irish women, there were some very solid performances by the now-seasoned group of freshmen and sophomores that have proven themselves to be the leaders of the squad. Sophomore Jennifer Handley (Barrie, Ontario) had the highest finish of the group, taking 20th, and junior Hillary Burn (Ottawa, Ontario) finished 40th, in her first varsity Notre Dame Invitational race (Burn did not compete in last year’s Invitational and took ninth in the junior varsity race her freshman year). Freshmen Megan Johnson (Seattle, Wa.), Rachel Endress (Wheaton, Ill.) and sophomore Jennifer Fibuch (Leawood, Kan.) completed the top five finishers for the women.

For the Irish men, though, the star of the day was junior Luke Watson (Stillwater, Minn.) and his first-place finish. Last year, senior Ryan Shay (Central Lake, Mich.) took first at the Notre Dame Invitational and the National Catholic Championship, en route to a BIG EAST individual cross country title. Watson, in his junior year as well, has already achieved two of those same milestones, and looks to improve on last year’s third-place finish at the BIG EAST Championships in Boston on the Oct. 27. Watson slipped past Stanford’s trio of top runners to earn the top spot, although the Irish team had to settle for third place behind the Cardinal and #10 Arizona. Fellow junior Marc Striowski (Toronto, Ontario) completed the race in ninth place, making Notre Dame and Stanford the only schools to place more than one runner in the top 10. Junior Patrick Conway (Springfield, Va.), freshman Todd Mobley (West Bloomfield, Mich.) and junior Sean Zanderson (Poway, Calif.) completed the top five finishers for the Irish men.

Coming Up for the Irish:

The Irish squads have a busy two weeks ahead of them. While most students will start their Fall Break on Saturday, the 14th, the harriers will travel to Ames, Iowa, to compete in the Pre-National Championships. The men’s race begins at 10:30 a.m. local time, followed by the women’s race at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 27, the scene switches to Boston, Mass., when the teams compete at the BIG EAST Championships.

Moving Up in the Polls: The Notre Dame men’s team jumped to 17th in the Oct. 9, MONDO cross country poll after its third-place finish in the Notre Dame Invitational. The Irish followed the same pattern last season, then jumped to 10th after a sixth-place finish at the 1999 Pre-National Championships. Notre Dame climbed as high as eighth in the 1999 poll after winning the BIG EAST meet.